The four candidates hoping to represent Norfolk’s second ward on the city council have different ideas about what the major issues are in Norfolk, but they do have one central theme: economic growth, development and opportunity for businesses and residents alike.
The four candidates for the open seat in Ward 2 are Frank Arens, Randy Dee, Bill Hattery and Carl Weiland. Jim Lange is not seeking reelection for Ward 2, which covers the northwest quadrant of Norfolk.
The candidates have a wide array of experience in different areas, with Dee, Hattery and Weiland touting experience in business management. Arens has worked as an insurance agent, and both he and Hattery have experience in real estate. Arens also serves on a governmental body; he is the vice chairman of the Norfolk Planning Commission.
Arens said it is important to attract new job opportunities to Norfolk.
“I will add innovation to our thought process for employment opportunities that will provide economic diversity to ensure economic stability,” he said.
Supporting local businesses and retailers are vital to the community’s success and will help increase quality of life, he said.
Dee and Weiland said solving issues with housing in Norfolk are essential to growing the city in the future.
Weiland said his plan is to make the housing construction industry in Norfolk more competitive and less inhibitive compared to other cities in Nebraska.
“If you want the city of Norfolk to grow and attract young people, then housing for first-time home buyers can’t cost significantly more to construct then they do in larger cities with more to do,” Weiland said. “Some people in Norfolk may be unaware that similar homes in similar neighborhoods in Omaha and Lincoln can cost 20% less than they do in Norfolk.”
Weiland outlined three possible solutions. First, he said, is to align building codes to be like larger cities. Second, examine what barriers are present for tradespeople such as electricians and plumbers, and change any barriers that are unreasonable. And third, hire building inspectors who can do their job effectively but not drive away investors.
“If it is less difficult and more competitive for developers to build in Norfolk, the cost of construction will drop and home prices will be more competitive,” Weiland said. “This should be the priority of the council over other special projects that require tax dollars.”
Dee said the lack of housing is causing some workers in the city to live outside its boundaries.
“I would continue to support good plans to add more quality housing,” Dee said. “We should avoid quickly built sub-standard housing, but housing that will be permanent and long-term homes.”
Dee said the population of Norfolk isn’t growing fast enough. He said the population should be 30,000 by 2035 but with the current growth rate, it will barely exceed 25,000 by that point. To meet those demands, the city needs to attract more young people.
“More housing will bring more employment and keep the younger population from moving away for opportunities,” he said.
Hattery said he believes in family values, diversity and equal opportunities for all of the citizens of Norfolk and his focus as a city councilman will be to develop and implement programs that increase the quality of life for all people in Norfolk
“First and foremost, my duty as a council person will be to ensure that the welfare and best interests of the citizens of our great community are always the priority,” Hattery said.
To help meet those needs, Hattery plans to clearly communicate with his constituents and be fiscally responsible with their tax dollars.
“(I am) looking to find any area where cuts and reductions can be made, easing the tax burden on all of us,” Hattery said.
Another issue for the candidates is public safety.
Dee said if elected, he would seek to increase the budget of the police and fire divisions.
“As a citizen, I requested a better police presence at the Norfolk Middle School to deter drivers speeding during dismissal,” Dee said. “I was told there was not enough in the budget to have a dedicated officer. Money should never be the reason we decide not to do everything to protect our children.”
Arens and Hattery also said Norfolk is a safe place to live and maintaining that safety will be important to them as city councilmen.
Dee said maintaining and fixing streets also would be a priority, as well as fixing issues with snow removal and better communicating the city’s snow removal plans.
Hattery said he also wants to make sure property taxes are lowered.
The candidates all pointed to their experience in business and community service as an important reason why they think they should be elected.
Weiland said he also deserves to be elected because he is the “rare” candidate without anything other than personal satisfaction to gain from winning.
“I am not connected to any local land developers, and am not a contractor or a Realtor. My business is not in Norfolk city proper, and my customers are not citizens of Norfolk,” Weiland said. “As a candidate I have pure intentions to serve.”
Arens said he has served the city on the planning commission and wants to continue his efforts to help grow the city.
“I have been a part of the recent economic growth and development taking place in Norfolk,” Arens said. “This is an opportunity to expand on that commitment to the city.”
Dee said he is a candidate worth supporting because he will make sure his constituents are heard.
“I will not blindly vote, but I will actually seek out what the citizens that I work for to inquire how they want me to vote on issues,” he said.
And Hattery said his business experience, openness with citizens and his work ethic make him the ideal candidate.